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Calculating Career's End

M.E. "Mickey" Poole is retiring after 34 years with the county, 14 years as director of financial services.

Thirty-four years later, the result of a newspaper ad is coming to an end.

"I owe it all to my wife for seeing that ad in the paper," said M.E. "Mickey" Poole of Leesburg, who is retiring Dec. 31 as director of financial services for the county.

In late August 1969, Poole was working for the City of Roanoke when his wife Charlotte, whom he married on Aug. 16, saw an ad for a newly created position in Loudoun County, that of director of accounting and purchasing.

"Where's Loudoun County? Where's Leesburg?" Poole had asked.

Poole soon found out, since his first day with the county was on Oct. 7, 1969. At the time, the county had 92 employees, compared to 2,600 employees today. Poole had been assigned to a staff of two employees, compared to the 52 employees he oversaw until Dec. 18, his last working day before his official retirement on Dec. 31.

"It has been a fascinating journey to see the direction the county has gone," Poole said.

WHEN POOLE started with the county, the then county administrator charged him with centralizing the accounting and finance and the purchasing systems, combining those of the various county departments. "From that point, things have grown and grown," he said.

In 1981, Poole became director of fiscal and general services and in 1989, director of financial services. He served on several county staff committees and steering groups through the years.

"Mickey has been instrumental in helping build Loudoun County's national reputation for sound financial management and fiscal integrity," said county administrator Kirby Bowers, according to a statement. "His professionalism and commitment to excellence are reflected in the county's strong bond ratings and the many rewards Loudoun has received for financial reporting."

For the past 14 years, Poole oversaw the county assessor's office, which handles real estate and land use assessments and property records, and the comptroller's office that includes accounting, payroll, accounts payable, financing and financial reporting. Until two months ago, he also oversaw the internal auditor's office, which once it was developed could be relocated to county administration.

"We have to make sure we have resources allocated, ... ensure those things are accomplished according to the county's goals and objectives and provide the best financial management support for county agencies and departments," Poole said. "What we do enables other departments to do their jobs, so they don't have to worry about who pays the bills."

Previously, Poole oversaw the budget office and the purchasing department until they, too, became separate offices, now headed up by Ben Mays and Tina Borger.

"Mickey came to work for the county when it was much smaller and over the years, he has overseen many tasks that are now separate departments, many things that have grown," said Bill Gardner, county assessor. "He wore many hats over the years. His contributions are many and varied."

As Poole said, "There hasn't been a day that hasn't gone by that I haven't learned something new. Every day is different. Every day is a challenge [as] everything becomes more complex from the growth."

POOLE ORIGINALLY wanted to be an engineer. He attended the Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, commonly referred to as Virginia Tech, graduating with an industrial engineering degree in 1964. While in school, he worked for the Norfolk & Western Railway Company, now called Norfolk Southern Corp., as a management trainee from 1962-65.

In his position, Poole designed facilities to identify the most efficient ways to do particular jobs on the railroad. But when he identified ways to make the improvements, "what I found disturbing was dealing with unions," he said, adding that he realized "I can't work in a career faced with obstacles."

Poole started taking finance and accounting classes and switched to working in the financial field. He served as the financial analyst and a buyer for the City of Roanoke from 1965-69 before coming to Loudoun. "I liked public service at that point," he said.

Over the years, Poole worked to develop trust and cooperation among his staff members and at having fun while still getting the job done. "You end up trying to make work fun so people enjoy coming to work," he said.

Gardner reflected on Poole's "lighthearted side," as he said. "He's very thorough. He's very even-tempered. And he thinks things through very thoroughly before he makes a decision," he said. "There's a much lighter side to this person that can be so serious at times."

Poole's lighter side includes being a model railroader and dancing about twice a week with Charlotte, doing anything from ballroom dancing to county western and tango and taking lessons for the past 12 years.

In his retirement years, Poole plans to spend time with Charlotte and his family and friends. He and Charlotte, a retired Fairfax County school teacher, have two adult sons.

"You always feel it's time to retire," Poole said. "There's nothing I know of telling me to leave. It's one of those things when you'll just know."